This $220 smartphone has embraced obsolete tech from the 1970s

Contrary to popular belief, $220 can buy you a lot when it comes to smartphones – take the Elephone U3H, which boasts 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage.

So imagine our surprise when we came across the A5 from Chinese tech giant Hisense, a "reading smartphone" that shares the same price tag.

The Hisense boffins have apparently identified an untapped niche, as the A5 eschews the ubiquitous colour display in favour of monochrome e-ink which, according to the marketing literature, uses “skin-friendly materials like the delicate feel of baby skin”.

Watching videos on the A5 could have its charms, making you feel like you’re back in the 1970s. But the sobering reality is that refresh rates on e-ink displays aren't nearly high enough to play videos smoothly.

With the A5, you get a device that will last and last, but is impractical for anything other than reading, email and text-based communication. For all intents and purposes, this smartphone is a glorified, souped-up eBook reader, rival to Amazon's Kindle Oasis.

In truth, you'd be better off with the Kindle or the Kindle Paperwhite, which are both cheaper and share much of the same functionality.

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